Volt Batteries To Find Second Life As Backup Power

Chevy’s Volt may only be a few years old, but General Motors is already thinking of ways to use the Volt’s batteries once their life aboard the car is over.

General Motors and ABB showed Wednesday what both companies consider the next stage in battery reuse, the repackaging of five used Chevrolet Volt batteries into a modular unit capable of providing two hours of electricity needed by three to five average American homes.

The uninterruptible power supply and grid power balancing system was demonstrated during GM’s Electrification Experience.

The prototype unit provided 25 kilowatts of power and 50 kwh of energy to power all the support lighting and audiovisual equipment in an “off-grid” structure used for the event.

“GM’s battery development extends throughout the entire life of the battery, including secondary use,” said Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management. “In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used. This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled.”

GM and ABB last year demonstrated how a Chevrolet Volt battery pack could be used to collect energy and feed it back to the grid and deliver supplemental power to homes or businesses.

GM said that during today’s demonstration, the energy storage system was run in a “remote power back-up” mode where 100 percent of the power for the facility came from Volt batteries through ABB’s Energy Storage Inverter system.

GM and ABB said a similar application could one day be used to power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage, allow for storage of power during inexpensive periods for use during expensive peak demand, or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation.

“We showed today how fast this research concept is turning into reality,” said Allen Burchett, ABB’s senior vice president for Business Development in North America. “The ABB-GM Volt battery system is the world’s first use of car batteries as possible back-up power for homes and other commercial uses. We will be installing it on the grid soon to complete the technical evaluation, and this will tell us all what smart grid applications are possible, like back-up power, reducing energy cost, strengthening utilities’ distribution systems and storing surplus renewable energy.”

ABB said its research center in Raleigh, N.C., conducted the research and development, and that the company’s Medium Voltage business unit in Lake Mary, Fla., is managing the proof-of-concept testing, market research and product development.

GM said it is focused on assuring battery systems used in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles provide environmental and societal benefits beyond their use in the vehicle. For GM, secondary use provides the opportunity to fully utilize the battery resource long before a battery is recycled.

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  • Robert Edwards

    How about using them for RV applications. Inverters, converters, and chargers are already in place. Some (like ours) have solar panels to charge the batteries as well. It seems smart to me.

  • Rob O’Keefe


    I think it’s a good diea, but I would not expect to see this for RVs for many years. Modifying current and next generation automotive systems to support the very different requirements would mean extremely high development costs, especially when compared to the very low volumes of RVs manufactured.

    It makes sense, to be at least, to get this technology into higher volume vehicles first like passenger cars/trucks, then later filter the technology down where it makes sense to scooters, motorcycles, RVs, etc…

    But just my thoughts, for what they’re worth… Personally, I’m driving a Volt and the next step for me is getting a solar system to charge it myself. All progress is good…

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Attach solar panels to back fill them during power outages and you got yourself a complete system…


  • John K.

    This “secondary use” of Volt batteries is an argument for Chevy to sell Volts, but lease their batteries. When your Volt’s battery has reached the end of its life for automotive duty, Chevy swaps it out for a new one (smaller & lighter due to improvements?), and they repackage the old one into these backup power units.

    “Win-win” IMO.